West Midlands named leading location for emerging technologies

3 mins read

The West Midlands has been declared a nationally significant location for two of the world’s essential industries of the future, as part of a major initiative by the Department for International Trade (DIT) to boost Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the UK.

The region has won two major project bids within the second round of the UK Government’s High Potential Opportunities (HPO) programme – an initiative designed to promote high-level industry opportunities to foreign investors and drive overseas investment into the UK’s regions and nations.

Birmingham and Solihull have been exclusively selected as the UK’s top destination for opportunities in Data Driven Healthcare & Technologies, while Coventry and Warwickshire is among the leading regional locations chosen as a centre of excellence in Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) Modelling and Simulation.

Dan Storer, Chief Investment Officer at the West Midlands Growth Company (WMGC) – the organisation charged with attracting inward investment to the region, said: “Despite current economic challenges, the West Midlands remains a strategically investable destination for the UK, which this latest Government announcement shows.

“The region is an important enabler for economic recovery, bringing forward nationally significant innovation in areas such as low-carbon and smart mobility, data-driven healthcare and sustainable construction.

“We welcome this added impetus from DIT, which will support our inward investment efforts ahead of major opportunities such as the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games”.

Tim Pile, Chair of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP), added: “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore the critical role of innovative, data-driven healthcare systems. The Greater Birmingham region continues to be a major proving ground for technologies in this field, anchored by the world-class research capabilities of our universities and powerful alliances that include Birmingham Health Partners.

“Government’s endorsement of our digital healthcare ecosystem as a High Potential Opportunity will help the GBSLEP in partnership with the West Midlands Growth Company drive further inward investment into this nationally important cluster”.

Nick Abell, Chair of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP), added: “Coventry and Warwickshire is a global force in future mobility, including low carbon propulsion and autonomous technologies. This support from the Department for International Trade will help us to promote our internationally significant strengths and identify supply chain gaps and opportunities for new investment and jobs.

“It adds to the work of Coventry & Warwickshire LEP, Coventry & Warwickshire's local authorities, and regional partners such as the West Midlands Growth Company, to attract new inward investment and grow our local economy through emerging future technologies”.

This recognition of expertise follows the 2019 launch of the West Midlands Local Industrial Strategy – the first regional Strategy of its kind to be developed in the UK. Its core areas for growth also form the basis of the region’s priorities for recovering the local economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which includes specific initiatives around advancing green low-carbon technologies, circular economy principles and investing in healthcare innovations.

Progress on strategic projects within these sectors has been achieved even throughout recent months. Notable milestones include increased funding and testing of a unique Very Light Rail concept exclusive to Coventry; the creation of the National Brownfield Institute in Wolverhampton to lead world-class research into repurposing former industrial land for development; and the unveiling of plans for the £210m Birmingham Health Innovation Campus; a collaboration between the University of Birmingham and Bruntwood SciTech.

DIT will continue to co-ordinate the HPO programme, sharing the West Midlands projects and others selected with its global network as part of its engagement strategy with international investors.

Minister for Investment, Gerry Grimstone, added: “The UK has so much to offer international investors across a variety of key sectors and regions. Our HPO programme looks at some of the sectors and sites across the UK where we see some of the world’s greatest challenges being solved.

“Inward investment will help the UK build back better while levelling up all parts of the UK. This is just the start of the steps we are taking to increase inward investment and drive economic recovery.”

The West Midlands has performed consistently strongly in attracting FDI, with 2020 marking the fifth year in a row that the region has ranked as the UK’s leading location for securing overseas investment outside of London and the South East.

Global heavyweights such as Lotus Cars, IPG Photonics – the world’s leading manufacturer of high-performance lasers – and US professional services consultancy Alvarez & Marsal are among the region’s most high-profile investors from the last five years.

The West Midlands Growth Company is aligned to the ambitions set out in the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) Strategic Economic Plan. The company has been established in partnership with Local Enterprise Partnerships, local authorities, universities and a wide range of businesses across the private sector. It focuses its core activities across Greater Birmingham and Solihull, Coventry and Warwickshire and the Black Country.